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JAMES MURPHY v. STATE OF MARYLAND

Criminal procedure — Jury instruction — Consciousness of guilt

Following a nine-day jury trial in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, appellant James Murphy was convicted of first-degree felony murder, first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary, and use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence. The court merged appellant’s first-degree burglary conviction into appellant’s conviction for first-degree felony murder, and sentenced appellant to life, all but sixty years suspended for first-degree felony murder; fifteen years consecutive for conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary; fifteen years consecutive for use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence; and three years’ probation. Appellant timely appealed and presents five questions for our review:

1. Did the [c]ircuit [c]ourt err when it refused to instruct the jury, pursuant to Mumford v. State, 19 Md. App. 640 (1974), that there is no criminal liability on the part of others when one person commits a homicide in the course of a crime or conspiracy if the homicide was a fresh and independent product of the mind of one of the confederates, outside of, or foreign to, the common design because more than mere coincidence in time and place between the two must be shown?

2. A. Did the [c]ircuit [c]ourt err when it instructed the jury that it could infer consciousness of guilt from the [a]ppellant’s departure from the crime scene when there was no evidence that the [a]ppellant believed that he had committed a crime, that he had rushed away from the scene of a crime, or attempted to conceal his identity in response to police or citizen action?

B. Did the [c]ircuit [c]ourt erred [sic] when it instructed the jury that it could infer consciousness of guilt based on the [a]ppellant’s departure from the crime scene without also informing the jury that any consciousness of guilt that it may infer must be limited to the crime which likely prompted the [a]ppellant to flee the scene without inferring consciousness of guilt as to all crimes charged?

3. Did the [c]ircuit [c]ourt err when it refused to provide additional instruction to clarify to the jury that the intent to commit a theft must exist at the time of entry into the dwelling of another and may not be formed after entry into the dwelling to find a person guilty of First Degree Burglary

4. Did the [c]ircuit [c]ourt err when it denied the [a]ppellant’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal at the close of the evidence on the basis that the State had presented sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find guilt on all counts?

5. Did the [c]ircuit [c]ourt abuse its discretion by allowing the prosecution to elicit hearsay statement [sic] during the testimony of Chadon Bradshaw[?]

Read the opinion here